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Prescriptive Methods

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There has been alot of discussion over the years about the prescriptive methods in the codes for wood frame construction. I agree with others, that many engineers generally recognize that a structure, built under the prescriptive methods, has a number of differences from those structures that are engineered. Many of those differences are considered weaknesses by the engineering profession but are generally considered acceptable by the insurance and construction industries. 

It seems to me, that if I was attempting to write a prescriptive method from scratch, I would want to make it more conservative than the engineered method (not less) so that safety would never be compromised. Today, it seems that most engineers would agree that the prescriptive methods are unconservative. Is this because the prescriptive methods were developed from older codes, building and engineering practices that today are viewed as obsolete and inadequate? It seems that the prescriptive methods, over the years, have not been kept up-to-date to adequately stay on the conservative side of  engineered buildings. 

I realize there is great motivation (money) from the building industry, general public, banking industry and politicians, etc. to keep the prescritive methods the same. We get cheaper homes that more people can afford, the building industry profits from a booming industry and the economy does well. Everyone is happy until a disaster happens. 

What can we, as engineers, do, to change this (if we think that it needs changing)? I would think that we could have allies in the insurance industry (after disasters like Hurricane Andrew and Northridge Earthquake). 

Who are on the committees that are charged with keeping the prescriptive codes up-to-date?

Jim K.

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